Like his teammate and gaffer, Luciano Acosta learned of his newest award from a bit of deception. After sitting with the FC Cincinnati content team to review his 2023 MLS Goal of the Year on camera, the Acosta family surprised The Orange and Blue captain and presented him with an FCC kit that read “2023 MLS MVP, ACOSTA” on the back with his number 10 emblazoned in the middle.
While not a stranger to showing his emotions, the moment got to Acosta as he embraced his daughter and son before teammates and coaches emerged to chant “MVP” his way in the crowded room. It was a tender moment that he deserved for the pain, struggle and perseverance he experienced in his time in Cincinnati, and all the times before that.
“The first thought that came to my head was thinking about my son, who was one year old (when we came to Cincinnati),” Acosta said, remembering the moment he saw the MLS MVP Trophy with his name engraved on it. “‘Where are we going to get him milk? Where are we going to get food? How am I going to talk to someone who doesn't understand me?’ Those were the thoughts that kind of came flooding to my head. Thinking about those things when I first came to this country, and how hard that was.
“All those memories are reflected in that trophy. When I see that trophy, I see my reflection and all those memories come flooding back, and this is a trophy for memories.”
The 2023 Landon Donovan MLS MVP has seen the peaks and valleys of success with FC Cincinnati. In 2021, his first season with the club, he was named captain for the first time in his professional career, but The Orange and Blue finished bottom of the table. Fast forward to todayBut now, with the weight of the world on his shoulders like the mythic tale of the titan Atlas, Acosta led his team to the Supporters’ Shield and earned MLS MVP just two years after that basement finish.
“All the times when I was too small, when I wasn’t good enough, a moment like this makes it all worth it,” the MVP said in a speech at the event held in his honor Monday at TQL Stadium.
“When I first arrived here, the moment I arrived, there was something special about the city. I felt at home from the moment I arrived here … even in moments when at this club, it felt impossible that we've become this great. But now, I'm sitting here with this MVP trophy, we've got the Supporters’ Shield, and I look over to my left I see my family, and the family that we've created here in the city. And the family we've created is incredible.”
From Buenos Aires, Argentina with Boca Juniors, to D.C. United, to Atlas FC in Guadalajara Mexico, to the Queen City, Acosta has been around the world to play the game he loves, uprooting his family each time to move across international borders and start a new life in a new city. Now, the MVP has received his flowers.
A king in the Queen City, Acosta earned over 60 percent of the total vote from media, coaches and technical staff, and players. The majority of media (82.66 percent), players (50.96 percent) and club staff (47.5 percent) voted for the Argentine midfielder, who recently signed a contract extension through 2027 to stay in Cincinnati.
What impresses Acosta’s coaches and teammates is his maturation as both a leader and a man. The captain has grown into his role as a leader in a way that has directly corresponded with FCC’s success on the pitch. While his talent on the field is impressive, it pales in comparison to the person he has become for his family and his club.
“He's come a long way on and off the field,” Noonan said of his captain. “He deserves all of this positive attention for the work that he's done for our club with his play, but also in the community.
“He’s a good father. He's a good husband, but a lot of people don't get to see that. I'm even fortunate enough to see our kids playing (soccer) together. And this is a guy who on Tuesdays and Thursdays is bringing his family to the gym to watch his son, and spending hours signing autographs and taking pictures. He represents his family in a really strong way. I think maybe people don't always get insight into that and that perspective is just how good of a person he is.
“He's more than a player. He's a really good human being.”
The Orange and Blue have been showered with individual awards after a historic season for the club that yielded its first ever trophy. The theme has been the same in the reception of the accolades: individual awards are nice, but it is the work of the collective that makes them possible.
“The MVP is an individual award, but I want to share this with my teammates,” Acosta said in his reception speech. “I’m very proud of this team. I just want to say thank you to my teammates, you make this possible.
“There’s nothing done yet, we have to keep going. We go for more, we go for all guys.”
The award provides a confidence boost for all. FC Cincinnati now boasts the MLS Coach of the Year on the sidelines, Defender of the Year on the backline, and MVP in the captain’s armband.
Individual accolades are not enough; Noonan described them as “the cherry on top” in his remarks to his club after being surprised with his coaching award. The focus of FC Cincinnati, and their MLS MVP, is to win it all.
“Our season is not finished yet,” Acosta made sure to include. “We have not achieved all of our goals, and we can’t wait to get back onto the field this Saturday and take FC Cincinnati to the MLS Cup.
“We have bigger things that we're striving to achieve.”
While the MVP trophy, which is created for the winner by Tiffany & Co. and delivered in the signature Tiffany Blue bag and box in full with lock and key, cannot be placed physically on the sideline, its metaphysical value will be present.
The confidence earned from being presented the award was not brushed off or pushed aside. Acosta was clear, winning this trophy gives a boost to the player and the club. The MVP even said he may try to have a picture of the award on the sidelines with him for everyone to remember who they are playing.
“All the players in Columbus are going to have to know that they are playing against the MVP,” Acosta closed his press conference by saying. “We're confident, this trophy is not just an individual one, but it's a group one as well.
“Winning this trophy and the success that we've had continues to be a motivation for us.”